Prince Albert Tales
One hundred years ago this week, on June 28, 1914 to be exact, a member of Austrian royalty, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was shot. It was a shot heard around the world. The shock waves of that one bullet set off a chain of events that lead to over 37,000,000 more deaths. The ‘Great War’ began to make its way around the World that day, and so too did bravery, sacrifice, and loss make its way from our small city on the North Saskatchewan to the trenches that soon snaked across Europe.
Born in 1920, to an impoverished community of Russian immigrants near Blaine lake Saskatchewan, Emma Woiken led a challenging existence. She found school easy, but she married young - sixteen years old. Their only child was lost during birth. Her husband, torn by grief, overcome with feelings of inadequacy, deluged by poverty, took his own life. Emma was left with no resources. Desperate for work, she entered a stenographer course. She did well and accepted a position in the Canadian Department of External Affairs. This necessitated a move to far off Ottawa. There she led a lonely life, no friends and no family.
In the early 1900’s members of the Independent Doukhobor Brotherhood fled from Russia to avoid persecution. The Canadian government helped them make their way to the edge of the North Saskatchewan River near present day Blaine Lake. Living in crude caves carved out of the river’s banks, the brethren eked out a living. The poverty and climate combined to make life a trying misery.
Our last story dealt with ‘Unsung Heroes of Prince Albert’s Early YWCA.’ Now I will turn to a more recent piece of history - ‘Unsung Heroes I Met Teaching High School.’
Respecting privacy, I will not refer to them by actual name. The three individuals I have chosen come from Prince Albert and communities to the north. They are either of First Nations or Metis’ heritage.
What makes a hero? Bravery in the face of death? (William Wallace - The Brave Heart); the accomplishing of what others are afraid to do? (Charles Blondin - the Niagra Falls High Wire Walker); leading your side to a victory in a crucial athletic contest? (Ron Lancaster - Grey Cup 1966); establishing a legacy of leadership? (John A. MacDonald - Canada’s first prime minister and acclaimed Nation Builder); or is being a hero simply a result of the quiet actions of an individual who, unknown to him/her at the time, leaves behind a legacy worthy of our respect and appreciation?